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The Influence of TV on Children

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Television viewing is a major activity and has lots of influence on children.  Children spend an average of three to five hours watching television in day.  Television offers entertainment, information and company to children but at the same time it also influences them in many undesirable ways. Excessive watching of television by children may lead to children abandoning important activities that they are supposed to undertake such as playing, family interactions, social development and school work. From watching television the children learn lots of inappropriate information since they cannot differentiate between the fantasy and reality presented in the programs they watch (Potter, W. J. 1988).

Television watching exposes the children to the themes of drug and alcohol abuse, violence and sexuality, race and gender stereotypes. These themes affect the children’s way of thinking as they may assume that what they watch in the programs is safe acceptable and typical. This has further led to children being exposed to attitudes and behaviors that are difficult to understand and rather overwhelming.

Television watching by children is also beneficial in the sense that it has some programs that are educational entertain and keep company. The children have a chance to learn a lot about the globe, different cultures and also gain exposure to ideas   that   their surroundings or communities in which they live don’t offer them. Some of the television programs have positive role models and thus influence the children towards positive lifestyles (Rubin, A. M. 1977).

Three infants between the ages of four and fifteen months (younger infants), three infants between the ages of two and five years (older infants),  four children between the ages of six to Eleven years and three between the ages of eleven and sixteen years who attended st lukes daycare center were observed respectively.

Children were observed through a viewing window for one hour for consecutive evenings. On the first day the younger three infants were observed, on the second day the older three infants were observed, on the third day children between the ages of six to Eleven years and finally on the fourth day the three children between the ages of eleven and sixteen years (adolescents) were observed and all their behaviors and reactions recorded.  During the observation period the children were left alone and undisturbed to avoid and outside interferences that would influence their behaviors or distract them.

Children watch and understand television in different ways depending on their ages and attention span. Different understanding of television in children can also be influenced by the amount of mental energy the child invests, life experiences undergone by the child and the way in which the information watched is processed. Infants only paid attention to the television for a few minutes as they were usually interested with other own activities and thus were likely not keen on the program content. After some twenty minutes they seemed not to be interested with the television and gave occasional glances especially when loud sounds and colorful pictures were displayed on the screen. The young infants started crying even before the observation period was over and thus had to be attended to.

The children aged two and half to five years the children were paying more attention to the television but they seemed to have limited ability to derive meanings from the program contents. These children had a tendency to imitate what they saw or heard in the television especially when the advertisements came they had memorized some of the words and repeated after the television. Most children had high preference for cartoons and other programs that were highly animated and with fast moving figures. The children were also heard saying new words that they heard from the television and this showed a form of learning that the children were experiencing from merely watching the television. The children concentrated very little on the television and at other times they continue playing and forgot the television.

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Observations from the children aged between six and eleven years revealed that they seemed to have developed a cognitive ability and attention span to follow continuous plots and make inferences about the implicit contents of the television programs, by doing so the children invested lots of mental efforts in processing the television information. The children also seemed to have developed an amazing taste for the horror movies perhaps in an attempt to overcome their own fears and they are sometimes prompted to becoming tolerant to fears and violence of the real world.

The children also showed some form of aggression especially when they were watching the cartoons and this was demonstrated when some started rolling all over the place and imitating what they were seeing while teasing each other with fists as a show of strength and might. The children as they watched the television they were constantly curious and kept asking each other questions such as what would happen next, which character in the program was stronger and more of an hero. The children also tried to indentify themselves with the characters in the programs.

The adolescent group that was the last to be observed and it comprised of children between the ages of eleven and sixteen years. This group while watching television was very composed and they seemed to have high levels of reasoning and abstract thought compared to the previous groups of children. The themes in the programs of preference by this group as was noted revolved around music videos that they seemed to really enjoy, romance and sex programs and horror movies. This group seemed to be calm while watching television compare to the others who were making several movements and noises. The adolescents focused more on the entertaining channels especially those which had music videos and movies. The adolescents also enjoyed snacks and soft drinks as they watched the television.

From the observations the infant children usually pay very little attention to the television and have no knowledge of program content, they are just involved in their other activities most of the time and are only intermittently able to put up meaningful combinations such as animals characters and humans that they can recognize. Violent content and other bad influences from the television programs cannot affect the children at this stage (Van Evra, J. 1990).

At the age of between two and six years the children were to pay more attention to the television and their ability to extract meanings from the programs is increased that explains why they tend to imitate what they hear or see in the television. The viewing habits that the children develop at this stage have lots of influence on their character. Most of then are mostly exposed to very violent scenes especially while watching cartoons, and from this increased exposure to viewing violent television content the children become more aggressive especially when they believe that the violence is a reflection of the real life situation.

Children should be encouraged to watch television with their parents or guardians so that if the programming turns violent the parents can discuss what happened and thus putting it the context that they want the children to learn.  At the same time patents should know what the children are watching and decide which programs are suitable and appropriate for their personality and age. The children fantasize a lot about aggressive and heroic themes particularly the boys; this is similar to findings made by (Palmer, E. L. 1988).

At the ages of eleven the children start focusing on family oriented of adult programming than they did when they were younger. At this stage they start to differentiate between the fantasy and the reality that the television programs present. The adolescent children also tend to imitate some of the programs on the television. The adolescent behavior of having snacks and soft drinks while watching television may have been influenced greatly by the advertisements and also from the programs that they wear watching They could be seen dancing according to the styles they were seeing in the television although their level of imitation is more advanced compared to that of the children aged between two and six years.  

There is need to encourage the adolescents to analyze and express their opinions on the television content as a parental strategy to reduce aggressive behaviors and also improve their critical approach to the television programs. From the above findings it is evident that television has lots of influence on our children regardless the age and thus making it the duty of the parents to act as mediators of their children viewing. The television industry should also consider creating programs that are specifically aimed at child audience bearing in mind the interests of each age group.

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